Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Hot Today, Hot Tamale!

This is the first meal from my cooking plan. Like enchiladas, tamales can be pretty time consuming. One overlooked benefit of the 30 meal plan is that you don't just save time by having the food prepared, you save time with kitchen clean up. With the Mexican spiced beef already prepared all I had to do was wrap and steam the tamales and make a side dish.

To make the tamales I soaked dried corn husks is hot water and added enough hot water to a few cups of corn masa to make a workable dough. When the husks were soft I tore one into strips to tie the tamales. Then, with a husk open I pressed 2 tablespoons of masa into a square on the widest upper quarter of the husk. Next, spoon the filling down the middle of the masa, roll over one turn to seal the meat in the masa, fold the narrow end of the husk up, roll the tamale to close and finish by tying is closed with a strip of husk. Once you have all the tamales rolled steam them for about an hour and a half.

To go with the tamales I made a simple confetti rice salad with cilantro lime dressing. It is just cold cooked rice with drained black beans, corn, diced peppers and chopped cilantro. The dressing is oil, lime, garlic, salt, and chili powder. Once a month cooking never looked so good!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Once a Month Cooking Revisited

Wait! Before you navigate away with a 'been there done that' attitude hear me out. I have learned a few things about this meal plan since I first tried it out in the early 90's and I want to share it with you.

First, this cooking plan works best if you give yourself permission to continue to make dinner when it suits you. Just because you have 30 meals in the freezer doesn't mean that is all you can serve your family for a month. Next, don't make more than 2 of any recipe. If you haven't made a lasagna in years then all of the sudden you are serving it every Thursday, your family will be confused and secretly hope that you will lose the recipe again. Don't try too many new recipes. There are a ton of recipes for this kind of meal plan but don't try to use this time for a mass experiment. As a kindness, offer your family some recognizable dishes. Also remember you don't need to live this way. Once a month cooking can be a great trick to pull out of your hat for times when you know you will be busy, a new baby, the start of the school year, canning or kidding season are a few times you might be glad dinner is in the freezer.

I got home from shopping at 2:30 and by 6:00 I had prepared 26 meals for $117! This included the cost of the meat since my fall beef and chickens aren't ready for the freezer yet.
9 Chicken entrees (9 meals)
8 lbs Mexican Beef (8 meals)
5lbs Meat Balls (5 meals)
Pizza (4 meals)
26 meals

For the Mexican Beef I put 8 pounds of ground beef in the crock pot on high with chopped onion and garlic and let it cook while I put the meatballs together. Some ideas for beef recipes can be found on Menus4moms The chicken entrees were of the Dump Chicken variety, super easy. If you are using whole fryers from the freezer just put them, a few at a time, into a stock pot of cold water. Fryers are easier to cut while they are mostly frozen if you have a very sharp knife. Once the chicken was in the freezer I drained the cooked beef from the crock pot and added the tomatoes and seasonings. I didn't premake the pizza I just put the pepperoni and Canadian bacon in the freezer.

I made 7 different chicken entrees, so only 2 repeats. I can do so many different things with the Mexican beef, everything from enchiladas and empanadas to tacos and tamales not to mention super nachos and chili. The Meatballs will be for spaghetti and meatballs, baked rotini, pesto penne with Italian vegetables and meatballs, Scandinavian meatballs and sweet and sour meatballs. Pizza for Friday night Pizza night.

So there you go! Once a month cooking as easy as you please. No huge stock pots bubbling away and no casseroles. If you're pressed for time give it a try :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Upcycled Vintage Aprons

An apron brings a certain charm to everyday work. Something happens when I tie my apron strings, my mind clears and I feel like I can accomplish everything on my endless to-do list . 

I used to barter for aprons with a friend but she has put off sewing for a while with twin toddlers and a new baby needing her attention. I was inspired to try making a few upcycled aprons from vintage linens I found at the thrift store. I whipped these half aprons up quickly and I have some pretty full aprons in the works.

I found a set of curtains with pretty vintage trim

This is what it looked like after I cut it,

and this is all that was leftover.
I made two aprons from the curtains, one to keep and one to sell or barter.

 I also bought a few vintage pillow cases which make very pretty aprons.
Grandma's Apron
Author Unknown
I don't think our kids know what an apron is.
The principal use of Grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath, because she only had a few, it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and they used less material, but along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.
It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears…
From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.
When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.
And when the weather was cold grandma wrapped it around her arms.
Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove.
Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.
From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables.
After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.
In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.
When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.
When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men-folk knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.
It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that 'old-time apron' that served so many purposes.